Profile: SFCC MOFAC Offers More than Just Art Exhibitions
One of the many things that makes South Florida Community College unique from most of Florida’s 28 other community and state colleges is that SFCC is one of only two schools that houses a museum on its campus. The SFCC Museum of Florida Art and Culture (MOFAC) has exhibited the work of Florida artists since 2002. However, the museum started to take shape in 1993, when SFCC acquired a collection of art by some of Florida’s best artists. The artwork, known as the Florida Masters Collection, was donated by Jim Fitch, the first MOFAC curator.
Fitch, who had a long history of involvement in the arts and owned a gallery in Sebring, had in the years prior purchased works for his collection by known artists such as the Highwaymen, John Costins, Peter Powell Roberts, and Christopher Stills. Fitch and his investment group agreed that they would donate the collection to SFCC under the condition that the college construct a building to house it. In December 2002, SFCC MOFAC opened to the public with its first exhibition, “The New Masters: Florida’s Contemporary Regionalists.” Since that time, the museum has exhibited the works of beginning and well-established Florida artists as well as historical and archaeological artifacts discovered locally by the Kissimmee Valley Archaeological Conservancy.
“SFCC MOFAC is unique,” said Mollie Doctrow, SFCC MOFAC curator. “When it first opened, MOFAC was the only museum in the state dedicated to Florida art, history, environment, and culture. Now there are more museums that will exhibit this type of art, but MOFAC is still the only museum that specifically focuses on the subject.”
Since becoming curator in 2005, Doctrow’s focus for MOFAC has been to not only exhibit art work but to integrate the museum into the college and broaden its reach to the community, to students, to college employees, and to academics. “I’ve worked to make it vibrant in as many ways as possible and to generate more enthusiasm throughout the college,” Doctrow said. “I try to bring in exhibits that appeal to teachers so they will bring their students. I like to have at least one contemporary exhibit a year to appeal to the fine art students and one exhibit with a historical focus for humanities students and teachers.”
Doctrow has also shaped SFCC MOFAC as a place that provides the community with a venue to learn about local history. The Heartland History Collection focuses on documenting regional history and has featured exhibitions such as Catfish, Moonshine, Cattle on the Peavine; White Sand, Black Gold, and Sweet Water; and the recent Decades of Change exhibition. These exhibitions documented the different ways of life for local residents throughout history. “It’s important that we have a place where the community can come and learn about what life used to be like in the Heartland through mediums such as photographs and stories that document the experiences of those who lived it.”
Doctrow will soon expand SFCC MOFAC’s reach into the sciences with the upcoming Wildflower Wayside Shrine exhibition that opens in March 2011. The exhibition is an outdoor environmental art exhibition that focuses on the endangered and endemic plants of the Lake Wales Ridge that are found on the SFCC Highlands Campus. The exhibition is on a self-guided walking trail on the campus. Shrine boxes will be found along the trail with Doctrow’s own carvings of each plant. Each box will contain scientific information provided by Archbold Biological Station about the plants as well as paper and wax, so visitors can make their own rubbing from the carvings on the outside of the box. “The exhibit will be long-term and will be open for our patrons even during the times MOFAC is closed,” Doctrow said. “We hope to create some curriculum materials for students to study the exhibition later on.”
Doctrow’s future goals for the museum include upgrading the current history and archaeology exhibits, using more media such as video monitors and sound systems to provide background information for more exhibitions, and expanding the permanent collection to include a major collection of photographs. “The value of the permanent collection and how it stands up to time is what establishes MOFAC’s importance throughout the state. As we build MOFAC’s reputation, more artists will want to exhibit here, and we will be able to bring more art and culture into the community.”